Monday Scramble: History to history in the making

By Ryan LavnerAugust 8, 2016, 6:00 pm

Jim Furyk shoots golf's (new) magic number, Russell Knox takes another title, Wesley Bryan earns a brief promotion, Nike closes up shop and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

In an era where distance is king, the owner of the best score in PGA Tour history is not a guy who can pound the ball into another zip code.

Just the opposite, in fact.

Jim Furyk is a 46-year-old with a surgically repaired wrist, a loopy backswing, a dink-and-dunk approach ... and he is the only player to shoot in the 50s twice on Tour.

Nothing in Furyk’s career has been aesthetically pleasing – not his swing, not his U.S. Open victory, certainly not his Ryder Cup record – but even after all of these years he possesses an uncanny ability to grind, to keep plugging along, to get the ball in the hole.

His success underscores the power of sound course management.

1. With a clutch par save on the 72nd hole, Knox became the fifth multiple winner this season, joining Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott.

The win doesn’t automatically qualify the Scotsman for the Ryder Cup – he received no points for his WGC-HSBC title last fall, because he wasn’t a European Tour member – but he should be a lock for a captain’s pick. If the fall had counted toward his total, he'd be No. 4 on the World Points list.

Even Knox conceded: "It's put Darren Clarke in a very difficult position not to pick me."

With veteran Lee Westwood also likely to receive a wildcard selection, Clarke will have to decide between the likes of Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell to fill out his roster. His three picks are due Aug. 29.  

2. Knox had one of the year's best celebrations, flinging his cap after the winning putt dropped. "I felt like the Incredible Hulk when it went in," he said afterward. "I could have ripped my shirt off."

Look at the zip on this fastball. Single-A teams have to be salivating at the thought of adding the 5-foot-10 right-hander to their rotation.

3. Furyk had barely signed off on his record round when the conversation shifted to where his round ranked all time. But it might not even be the best sub-60 score.

On Sunday, he hit every green and missed just one fairway (even though it didn’t hurt him – he stuck his approach from the right rough inside 3 feet). He made five putts longer than 14 feet, including the 23-footer on 16 that put him in line for the 58. And he gained more than 10.66 strokes on the field.

That last part is important, because it shows how unlikely the crazy-low round was. 

From a strokes-gained perspective, Al Geiberger’s 59 remains the best: He beat the field average by 13.6 strokes that day.

Furyk’s own 59, at the 2013 BMW, was second-best (12.09), while David Duval’s closing 59 in 1999 ranked third (10.68). 

Of the six players who have shot golf’s (old) magic number, only Geiberger, Duval and Chip Beck posted that score on a par-72 course; Furyk’s 58 was on the par-70 TPC River Highlands. 

Is it easier to break 60 on a par 72 than a par 70, because there are two more par 5s on which to score? You'd think so, but history says it’s equally as difficult.  

4. How will Furyk’s historic round affect his Ryder Cup chances?

Even before the 58 he clearly had caught the attention of Davis Love III, who reasoned at his PGA news conference that Furyk would be “top five or six” in points had he not sat out much of the season because of a wrist injury. Overall, his name was mentioned seven times in the presser.

Love seemed to be looking for any reason to pick Furyk, who has veteran savvy, sure, but also the most losses (20) of any player in Ryder Cup history.

Then this happened.

5. And so Love’s decision just got a lot more difficult. 

He said that the four American Olympians will receive credit on his unofficial points list, but frankly, results on the big tour should matter more.

Kuchar deserves a pick, because of his form this season (nine top-10s). Reed deserves a pick, because of his phenomenal match-play record. And Daniel Berger should at least receive strong consideration, even though he blew the Travelers on Sunday. He has a win this summer and the kind of brash, fearless attitude the Americans desperately need. 

That leaves Love to decide between Rickie Fowler (well-liked, but disappointing year), Bubba Watson (big hitter, but nothing of note since Riviera) and, surely, a Billy Horschel-type PWGHL (player who gets hot later). 

Depending on how the fall shakes out, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that the Americans will leave at least one player home who is ranked inside the OWGR top 10.

6. Here's a look at where Rickie, Bubba and Co. will be teeing off over the first two rounds in Rio.

7. Berger, meanwhile, couldn’t have picked a worse time for his closing 74 at the Travelers. 

Staked to a three-shot lead, the 23-year-old was on the verge of his second victory in as many months. Instead, he didn't make a birdie until the 14th hole and wasn't a factor down the stretch.

There are only three events for Berger to jump inside the top 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, or else he'll have to rely on a pick. This was a golden opportunity to accrue some points. 

8. Just going to leave this here, because it’s the most astounding stat of a wild day at TPC River Highlands (click here for my wrap of Furyk's round): 

9. If he wanted to (and here's thinking he does not), Mike “Fluff” Cowan could write a heckuva book about his career. The legendary caddie has now had a front-row seat to some of the most incredible moments in the game’s long history: Tiger Woods’ 12-shot romp at the 1997 Masters; the miracle comeback at the ’99 Ryder Cup; and now Furyk’s 59 and 58. 

10. It’s early August, and already there is no shortage of contenders for Round of the Year. Here is how we’d rank the top 5 rounds of 2016:

  1. Henrik Stenson, 63, The Open
  2. Jim Furyk, 58, Travelers
  3. Ken Duke, 65, The Players
  4. Brandt Snedeker, 69, Farmers
  5. Phil Mickelson, 65, The Open

11. It’ll turn out to be a two-week bump to the big leagues, but Bryan became the 11th player to win three times in a Tour season and earn an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour. 

Wesley’s latest victory came in a playoff at the Digital Ally Open. It’s been a meteoric rise for the one-time trick-shot artist, who will have a full Tour card waiting for him next season.

Carlos Ortiz last earned the promotion in 2014. It’s unfortunate timing for Bryan, with only two regular-season events remaining on the PGA Tour schedule. 

12. In a move that stunned the golf industry, Nike announced last week that it would stop producing equipment and instead focus on apparel and footwear. Even staffers like Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Patrick Rodgers seemed shocked by the news. Tiger Woods suggested in a tweet that he’d only had a few days’ notice.

The big question now, of course, is what happens to those donning the Swoosh.

Koepka and Finau, both of whom were courted by PXG before signing with Nike, said they will play out the season with their current equipment. Why change what’s working? 

Woods could mix and match his bag. McIlroy may return to Titleist. Whatever happens, it figures to be the wildest free-agency period in golf history.

Speaking of which ...

Hey, we appreciate a good Twitter trolling as much as anyone, but there was something about these tweets that didn’t sit well here. 

Sure, there’s a time and a place to jump in, to crack wise about the upcoming signing frenzy, but mere hours after Nike announced that it was getting out of the equipment space – and thus laying off HUNDREDS of employees – did not seem like that time. 

This week's award winners ... 

Unintentional Humblebrag: Furyk, when asked about how low he could go: “If I had never shot 59 before, I would’ve been thinking 59. But I was thinking about breaking that barrier.” 

Overshadowed: Justin Thomas. He shot 62 and didn't have the best round of the day. By four shots. "Not often do you shoot 62 and get your butt handed to you," he said afterward.

Better Late Than Never: Anthony Wall. After more than a 16-year wait, he finally won again on the European Tour, after beating Alex Noren in the championship of the Paul Lawrie Match Play.

No Regrets: Dustin Johnson. If you thought DJ might feel a sharp pang of regret about skipping the Olympics, his fiancee's Instagram feed suggests otherwise.

Fake News: The 2017 Florida swing is canceled because of the Zika virus threat. 

Amateur History: Eun Jeong Seong. The 16-year-old became the first player to win the U.S. Girls' Junior and U.S. Women's Amateur in the same year. In the 36-hole final, she defeated Virginia Elena Carta, who was trying to pull a Bryson (winning the NCAAs and U.S. Am in the same year). Which leads us to ... 

Back to the Minors (For Now): Bryson DeChambeau. Despite an auspicious start to his pro career, he has now played the maximum 12 events allowed to non-members and didn't earn enough points to get his card. A trip to the Tour Finals looms. 

Lost Her Speaking Privileges: Diana Murphy. After bungling two consecutive trophy presentations on national TV, the USGA president reportedly did not address the crowd after Seong won the U.S. Women's Am. That's probably best.

Least Surprising News of the Week: John Daly.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Zach Johnson. He made his 10th consecutive cut, but the T-47 at the Travelers was the last thing we expected from a guy who (A) had four top-20s in his last five starts, and (B) finished sixth there last year on the course that rewards precision. Sigh.  

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry